Oklahoma softball shortstop Pendley answers her former team
Last December, after a breakout freshman year in which she earned first team All Pac-12 honors while hitting .331 with 19 homeruns and 55 RBI, shortstop Shelby Pendley unexpectedly decided to leave Arizona’s softball team before the second year of her collegiate career.
Tonight, Pendley defeated her former team, the Wildcats, 5-0 as a member of her new club, the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners — the same team that sent the Wildcats home from the NCAA Super Regionals last year, robbing them of a Women’s College World Series berth.
Despite the waves caused by Pendley’s relocation, head coach Mike Candrea pointed out that the Wildcats came here to do work and stay focused.
“We played against Oklahoma today, not Shelby Pendley,” Candrea said. “She’s there, and that’s the way it is.”
The two rivals played today in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, previously the Cathedral City Classic, in Palm Springs, Calif. This trip marked Arizona’s seventh to the Classic, with a 27-4 record all-time.
Last year, the Cats went 5-1 in the tournament, losing only to No. 13 Georgia.
Junior pitcher Estela Piñon was able to stay competitive with Oklahoma’s offense in the first few innings, getting out of trouble without allowing any runs in the first frame.
After three innings of scoreless play, Oklahoma struck first, cashing in on a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0 in the top of the fourth.
Arizona’s offense seemed uncharacteristically stagnant and was unable to support Piñon, producing just two hits through the first four innings and three overall in the game.
Junior left fielder Kelsey Rodriguez led the Wildcats’ attack with two hits while freshman pitcher Nancy Bowling relieved Piñon and helped her own cause by collecting a single through the left side in the top of the fifth.
Arizona was shut out for the first time since game one of last year’s Super Regionals against the Sooners.
“In the game against Oklahoma, I think we could have gotten a lot more hits,” senior Brigette Del Ponte said.
“We made some mental errors on the bases as well as on the field, which didn’t help us, and it should have been a closer game,” Del Ponte added. “But overall, I think we played well tonight. We just have to work on striking in the first three innings as opposed to the last.”
In the second half of the doubleheader, Arizona battled Long Beach State in a close game before finding itself down 3-1 with three outs remaining.
After two strikeouts in the top of the seventh, sophomores Chelsea Suitos and Hallie Wilson were walked to bring up Del Ponte, who subsequently doubled in a run to tighten the score to 2-3.
After Rodriguez walked to load the bases, sophomore Chelsea Goodacre doubled in Del Ponte and Wilson to put the Wildcats up 4-3 in a come-from-behind performance.
“I was very pleased tonight,” Candrea said. “We couldn’t really get a whole lot offensively going tonight, but I thought coming from behind was a huge victory for us. We had one inning that we got in a bit of a jam, but I thought we had good performances all around.”
Junior pitcher Shelby Babcock provided a strong outing for the Wildcats, allowing three earned runs and seven hits while striking out four and walking three in five innings pitched.
“I’m happy that we won the second game tonight,” Rodriguez said. “We learned a lot, which was a positive outcome for tonight.”